"There goes your friend," The man in front of me said. And I looked up to see that it was very true, Natalie was gone. She'd literally fallen out of the plane with only a parachute, an instructor, and the hope of reaching the ground alive. And the most terrifying part was, we were next. We were 12,000 feet in the air above Middletown in a small airplane, and the only way back to the ground was jumping. How did we get ourselves into this?
I feel like skydiving is a pretty common adventurous and reckless part of most people's bucket list. There's the song about "skydiving and Rocky Mountain climbing" to "live like you're dying," and Natalie, Sean and I all had it included in our lists, but how many people actually go?
Being the adventurous, slightly insane college students that we are, we set a plan in motion to jump out of a plane. You never know when will be your last opportunity to do something
My friends and family were skeptical when I told them I planned on skydiving before returning to college in a week. But they underestimated our ability to make things happen when we make up our minds. We went to the Before I Die wall to write "GO SKYDIVING." Then signed up to skydive the following Tuesday.
It turns out it is fairly simple to skydive. You can sign up online up to a day before, or simply walk in to the Start-Skydiving building in Middletown, Ohio. After initialing about 20 spaces and signing our lives away if we were to die, we watched a short video about what we were about to do, then walked over to the hanger where the instructors were folding up parachutes and preparing the next group of jumpers.
The instructors were super casual, as if flying up 2 miles into the air simply to go 140 mph back towards the ground was anything but an absolutely terrifying and dangerous activity. And for them I suppose it is: one of the instructors had jumped over 9000 times. We slipped into our extremely fashionable blue jumpsuits and were strapped into the climbing-like harnesses by the instructor assigned to us. With barely any time to fully process what we had gotten ourselves into, I found myself walking across the runway to a tiny plane with 6 other first time skydivers.
The plane flew off into the sky, and the landscape spread out below us. It may not have been the Grand Canyon or Pacific Ocean, but there is something incredible about flying over the place you grew up when someone points out Dayton or Kettering, and you have bird's eye view of your hometown.
Suddenly the door was flung open and one of my best friends was gone. Oh no. Rachel this was not a good idea, this was not a good idea....
Then Sean jumped out, and soon it was me waddling towards the gaping doorway, strapped to my instructor and seeing the cornfields spread out far below me. "Want to do a flip?" my professional asked. And I said sure, at that point, why not?
So there I am, back-flipping out of the plane with wind rushing towards me as I hurtle towards the ground. I couldn't hear myself scream as wind rushed past and I put my arms out and arched my back like I was instructed before the fall. It is surreal as we free fell back to Earth. There was no time to be scared, and we were going too fast for my stomach to even drop. I was really doing this!
I felt a jerk as the parachute caught and we slowed to a serene floating still so far above the ground. "The parachute opened, that's always a good thing," said my instructor joking with me. And I could only smile, as I took in the view of everything around me. One of my other Before I Die dreams is to become a pilot; to fly. And this was the closest I've been to actually flying, just us and a parachute thousands of feet in the air.
When we reached the ground I ran over to Natalie and Sean, and we all hugged yelling, "We did it!" A huge rush of adrenaline had convinced us that we were unstoppable. Smiles were plastered to our faces for at least the next hour as we excitedly relived our experience to my sister and Nicole who had come to watch.
We had done it. A truly crazy endeavor. We had faced any fear we had, and lived to the fullest extent in those moments as we fell from the sky; powerless over our futures, simply depending on a large piece of fabric to preserve our lives.
It is a day I will always remember, after all, how many afternoons of my life will I get to spend jumping out of a plane with two of my best friends?